Friday, January 14, 2011


Though I've only skimmed the surface of Madrid in the past couple of days, I'm in love. This city has so many little pockets and major plazas and centers, that I can't help but find myself reveling in wandering. I've only been in certain areas of the city, namely the Plaza del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and the area surrounding the Palacio Real, but I've loved every minute of it.

I've traveled and wandered in a group ranging from 5-10 people each time I've gone, but I've found myself wanting to explore by myself. I'm happy to be surrounded by friends, but the city feels like home and San Francisco, so I find it hard to be afraid, which I guess is a good thing? I'm not dumb about things though--I walk with confidence and purpose, I avoid creepy looking people and areas (though I haven't seen many), and I've been wearing my money belt whenever I go into the city because I still haven't found a purse that I like, and carry nothing in my pockets, so that if on the off-chance someone decides they want to pick-pocket me, they'll find nothing. Trust me, I know what I'm doing. I've got this system down to a science.

Along with my money belt and camera, the only other thing I carry when I go to Madrid is my little Moleskin Madrid city guide journal that I bought prior to leaving, which has been the best $15 I've spent for this trip. The journal has the metro map with all the different train lines, maps of each district of Madrid, conversion charts, blank pages for whatever, and places to write down favorite bars/restaurants/experiences/dreams/people, etc. In it, I've written down places I want to go, details about museums (prices, hours--especially when they're free, what metro stop I need to take), lists from friends who have been on the same study abroad with things I need to do, dates of our weekend trips, Pilar's and my director's addresses and phone numbers, etc. This thing is a gem, and I'm not sure how I, or my group, would survive without it. I've used it so many times over the past couple of days that I'm not sure if I'll be able to function if I ever lose it. I can foresee this journal getting us out of potential sticky situations.

On one of our many excursions into the city, I got tired of wandering aimlessly in a group of people, so I split a little after our metro stop in the Plaza del Sol. I planned on venturing down the Paseo del Prado, one of the biggest streets in Madrid because I've been dying to go ever since I arrived in Spain, but I ended up walking down the wrong street, which put me in a different district altogether. Although I ended up in a different area, it turned out being great for two reasons 1: I knew where I was because I had my Madrid notebook (ultimate win), and 2: I discovered one of the buildings I had been thinking of attending anyway, the Biblioteca Nacional Museo del Libro. Unfortunately it was closed, otherwise I would have taken a tour, but I'm definitely going back later. I think the thing that I love most about Madrid is that you can wander around a certain district that's more metropolitan than historical, but no matter which way you travel away from where you're at, you're bound to run into something from the 19th century or prior a block away. I love being able to see history on every block!

We have one guy in our group, David, who's the brother of one of the girls, and because we had gone shopping at one point or another every time we'd gone to Madrid, we promised him that Saturday we'd do something he wanted to do, though only after we took a tour of a historical clothing museum, naturally. We went to the Museo del Traje in the early afternoon and saw great pieces of clothing from all over Spain ranging from the 14th century to present, which was beautiful to behold. The one thing David was dying to do was to go to the Real Madrid soccer stadium in the northern portion of Madrid, and we all went and beheld the holy grail of soccer. Everyone went and toured the inside of the stadium, but to save 16 euro me and another girl decided to opt out, and went shopping instead. However, I do plan on attending a Real Madrid soccer game, so I'll put that 16 euro towards my ridiculously expensive seat.

Below are pictures of things I've seen in Madrid in the past couple days. Enjoy!

A statue of King Charles III in the Plaza del Sol

A guard outside of the Casa de Correros/Post office--I'm not too sure what's going on with his hat, though it reminds me of something from Star Wars

Statues of kings in the gardens of the Palacio Real/Royal Palace

Almudena Cathedral right behind the Royal Palace

He was checking us out, so I decided to immortalize him in film

An alleyway

This is the oldest door in Spain, possibly from the early 15th century

The spikes look like they're from Ms. Trunchable's "chokey" from Matilda

Plaza Mayor--they used to hold the Spanish Inquisition here

An alleyway off of the Plaza Mayor

Fuentes de la Cibeles/Cibele (Ceres) Fountain

Palacio de Comunicaciones/City Hall

Museo del Traje/Clothing Museum--all of us plus David, the eternal picture-taker

Mercado de San Miguel--I am in love with this marketplace

Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, the Real Madrid football (soccer) stadium

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